Being told that your child needs to have their hearing checked can be scary for parents, especially when their baby is a newborn.
We understand your concerns, and pledge to ensure that your appointment with us is as stress free as possible. No matter the age of your child, there are safe and accurate tests to determine their hearing level.
Newborns and Infants
In the US, approximately 3 out of 1,000 babies are born with some level of hearing loss. Until fairly recently, parents had to wait until their baby was older in order to accurately test their hearing. Today, techniques such as auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions screening are both beneficial in gauging hearing loss for infants.
The auditory brainstem response (ABR) test is a helpful tool in determining a newborn’s ability to hear. The test uses a special computer to measure the way the child’s hearing nerve responds to different sounds.
Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening also allows hearing testing within the child’s first few days. Screening is simple and painless, and do not require the baby to respond directly. A miniature earphone and microphone are placed inside the ear, sound is played and the response is measured. A healthy, normal ear responds with an echo picked up by the microphone. When a baby has a hearing loss, this echo cannot be measured.
About 10 percent of babies do not pass the OAE screening in the hospital. This can be due to blockage of the ear or movement during the test. Most babies pass the follow-up hearing testing, but it is very important to for further follow-up testing. Babies that do not pass the initial screening are typically referred for a follow-up evaluation. If the child does not pass the follow-up they may be referred for more in-depth audiological assessment by 3 months. These test will verify hearing loss if it exists and help us identify options for treatment.
Infants and Toddlers Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)
When a child is between 6-7 months and up to 2, sound will be presented through a speaker or earphone, and the child is trained to look in the direction of the sound where they may see a moving toy or a flashing light. As the child matures they may be asked to point to a pictures in a book or an objects in the room.
OAE testing may also be used at this age if the child can tolerate the device placed in his ear for up to two minutes, Otherwise, sounds can be played through loudspeakers, but in this case only the best ear is tested so hearing loss in one ear may remain unidentified.
Ages 3 – 4
Between three and four, the child typically responds to a sound through an instructed action. With earphones on or in both ears, the child is taught to wait, listen, and respond.
Ages 5 and up
Once most children reach the age of 5 they can be tested using standard adult methods.